...are the ones that make the biggest difference

3.19.2006

Baptism resources

Of late, the wife and I have gotten into several discussions, sometimes heatedly, on the issue of infant baptism in the Orthodox Church. And by extension the practice of communing infants, as well. To me, they are of a set. If the infant has been baptized into the body of Christ, then there seems no logical theological reason to exclude them from the Eucharist. We've kind of been running around in circles but have finally gotten to a point where fruitful discussion is more likely, so I'm hoping that some Orthodoxy-knowledgeable person can point me in the right direction for some good online and book resources that provide theological, biblical and historical support for Orthodoxy's paedo-baptism. Any help is greatly appreciated.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not an Orthodoxy-knowledgeable person but last fall my husband and I grappled with this issue after our daughter asked us how old one had to be before they could become a Christian. Coming from a conservative anabaptist background we really struggled with this. Our Life in Christ has a really good series on baptism/infant baptism that answered a lot of questions for us. Also this link:

http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7067.asp

It helped us to see the historical continuity of infant baptism through the early church. Also Cyprian discusses an interesting account of something that happened when an infant was given communion.
If you have a set of the Ante-Nicene Fathers you can find it in Volume 5 pg. 444. Or look at the CCEL website for Cyprians Treatise III- On the Lapsed section 25. We found it interesting that there was no controversy over infant baptism or infant communion in those early years of the church. I hope this helps some. I do enjoy reading about your journey, and I pray that our Lord will make your paths straight as you seek to serve Him.

The Scrivener said...

Nathan,

Offhand, I don't have anything on this from a specifically Orthodox perspective (this wasn't an issue for me, and my wife was raised in a church with infant baptism). But I do recall coming across an interesting reference on this issue a while back, and I was able to dig it up. Check out some of the posts on infant baptism on http://www.communiosanctorum.com/

Specifically, read the March 3 post and the two March 15 posts. The author is a conservative Anglican rather than Orthodox. But I thought he discussed some of the early Christian witness on this issue well (he had a good quote from St Gregory of Nyssa, too, if I remember correctly).

Is the issue here infant baptism as such, or is it more specifically the reception of the Eucharist by children after infant baptism?

Nathan said...

Anon -

Thanks for the links & info. I've got a set of the ANF, so I will be looking that up tonight! I really appreciate your help. If you don't mind my asking, what denomination are you a part of? Coming to Indiana, we've run into quite a few anabaptist groups and the denomination I youth pastored in came from a Mennonite background.

Doug -

Thanks for your links, too. The issue for her is really that the infant cannot "accept" Christ and therefore cannot choose to be baptized out of faith and cannot understand what communion is about. It really boils down to the fact that child is unable to comprehend these things until it has reached a hypothetical age of accountability.

The denomination she was raised in has strong anabaptist roots, which explains a lot of the resistance.

The Scrivener said...

It’s interesting. Your wife’s feelings on this point are very much like those supported in the churches in which I was raised. I was baptized as a 7 year old, when I had shown some interest in baptism and specifically asked for it. But when I think back at it now, I can’t really say that as a 7 year old I was somehow capable of making that choice. Perhaps it’s a red herring of a rhetorical question, but when are we ever really capable of making that choice with sufficient presence of mind? And what about people who are born retarded or are injured such that they will probably never have the mental acuity to make that choice for themselves? Is baptism just not for them?

The real question, of course, is simply: what is baptism? If it is nothing more than a public profession of faith and an outward symbolic demonstration of something that first –and only- takes place inwardly, then maybe one ought to wait for some kind of age of accountability (if there is such an age). But if baptism truly is being united, corporeally, to the crucified and risen Christ, a washing away of the old Adam and a re-imaging of the True Adam on us, then baptism relies not at all on human capacity or character, but is all grace – a work of God – and is the same for a newborn and a man of 40 and a mentally retarded child.

Isn’t the difficulty that some have with this perspective connected to the idea that –if this sacramental perspective is true- then the ritual act of baptism is sufficient in itself for salvation? Are the Orthodox (and the Roman Catholics, for that matter) just saying that all you need to do is be baptized and then you’ve got a one-way ticket to heaven? That’s a red herring question on the other side of the aisle, really. Of course, this is not how baptism is taught or understood in the Orthodox Church. In some sense, yes, baptism is necessarily sufficient for salvation – precisely because, in baptism, we are united to the risen humanity of Christ. But it’s God’s work, not ours. Our work is to live our baptism, to love and desire Christ above all else. In another other sense, then, unless we strive to live in Christ, to live our baptism, then having once been the recipients of such grace we are doubly judged for spurning it, and baptism is to our greater condemnation.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

The "denomination" we came from is a relatively new one on the anabaptist scene called Charity Christian Fellowship. They say they are not a denomination but if one gets to see the inner working of the group, it looks an awful lot like a denomination :). We were a part of a daughter chuch of the main Charity group. While there is some variation between the daughter churches, the one we were a part of was about a step or two more liberal than the Beachy Amish. In fact the local Mennonite bishop of the Beachy church would come and preach in our congregation and be present for ordinations and such. About two years ago the church had a split and the first church closed while the split which is more baptist/pentocostal remained. We remained with the split church while researching what the early church believed and finally got brave enough to visit an orthodox cathedral about an hour away last December. While there we were told of a church that was closer to us and have been visiting there since. Our friends from the split church and the original church know that we have been researching the early christian doctrines and such, but they don't know yet that we have been visiting and contemplating becoming catachumens in the Orthodox church. Once they find out, I'm almost positive we'll be under some kind of social ban.

Karl Thienes said...

Nathan,

Take a peek at Jordan Bajis' book "Common Ground"....really excellent stuff (and even better footnotes!) on this topic as well as others that Protestants have trouble with.

Nathan said...

Ack! I had comment ready to post last night, but then blogger maintenance killed it.

Anon -

Thanks again for the Cyprian reference, which amazingly touched on both issues. We read through it last night and had a good conversation about it. I'm going to scan the Goarch article as well and (if I finally get around to setting up my printer) will print them off for her to read as well.

And that's a complicated denominational history! As we were church-less upon coming to Indiana and starting to attend St Nicks, we didn't have to worry about shunning, at least not from non-family members. It was, in all honesty, a bit of a concern for me as to how the wife's family would react. So far it hasn't been too bad. Mostly supportive but they obviously have their concerns. I hope that, if you decide to join, your friends will still love and accept you. How far away from becoming catechumens do you think you are? What are the issues or problems you are still working through with Orthodoxy?

Nathan said...

Doug -

"Perhaps it’s a red herring of a rhetorical question, but when are we ever really capable of making that choice with sufficient presence of mind?"

I've wondered this myself. Especially when I hear of particularly young children who have made a decision for Christ, as was the case with our 4 year old nephew recently. How can a 4-year old be considered "accountable"? I'm not gainsaying the experience since my wife says she was that age when she came to Christ, but it still seems hinky to me.

"The real question, of course, is simply: what is baptism?"

For her growing up, baptism was precisely that public profession of faith and act of obedience - nothing more. It is really the sacramental nature of both baptism and the Eucharist that are the primary stumbling blocks for her. If they are mere symbols or ordinances then the locus of the act is our mind and obviously understanding must precede performance for the acts to be considered in any way valid. If, however, the locus is not our minds but in heaven (or at least beyond our present reality), as the sacramental view states, then understanding, while important, is not required to be first in line.

The Scrivener said...

By the way, Karl, that Common Ground book looks great. I've had a hard time finding the right book on Orthodoxy to share with interested family members and perhaps this is it. I'll have to order it.

The Scrivener said...

One more thought, Nathan. Have you read Schmemann's "Of Water and the Spirit?" I can't recommend it highly enough, really.

Nathan said...

I've got "Of Water and Spirit" but only got through the first couple of chapters before getting distracted with school and stuff. I've been meaning to get back to it, so now might be a good time.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

We are fairly close to asking the priest to recieve us as catechumens. The major "bump in the road" for us is what the anabaptists call the doctrine of the two kingdoms. We've come to accept pretty much all other doctrines of the Orthodox church that we have come to head with such as Mary and Icons, Baptism and the Eucharist, life after death, etc. However we have been wondering lately if the "two kingdom" doctrine is as important as what Jesus himself said about Baptism and the Eucharist. When we look around it seems that on those two points, the Orthodox are the ones who still hold to the apostolic teaching.